Animal enrichment

The Oregon Zoo enriches animals' lives through stimulating and challenging environments, objects, and activities.

It was here in the 1980's that the concept of environmental enrichment was established. The first international animal enrichment conference was held at the Oregon Zoo in 1993. It lead to the establishment of a bi-annual International Conference on Environmental Enrichment.

Today, animal care staff are innovating enrichment techniques throughout the zoo. Explore a few examples:

Leaping lions

Keepers developed a mega version of this standard pet store cat toy to mentally stimulate the big cats while encouraging natural hunting behaviors. Keepers also hide food on rocks and under logs, spray animal scents and have even walked goats through the habitat (when the lions were not in it) to leave "game trails."

Sea otter exercise

The zoo's lead sea otter keeper began training geriatric Eddie to put a ball through a plastic basketball hoop as a way of exercising the aging marine mammal's arthritic elbows. Now keepers train young otters to dunk as well — an enrichment exercise that may provide additional health benefits as they get older.

Tech for apes

Primate keepers give chimps and orangutans access to technology such as iPads and GoPros, which provides mental stimulation and a vehicle for interaction. The enrichment also provides keepers with a unique opportunity to see what apes do during the day and what activities they most enjoy.